By  on June 22, 2007

NACDS Marketplace is on an upswing.

This year's product show is expecting 908 employees from more than 200 retailers seeking the latest and greatest in beauty, health and general merchandise items, a 15 percent increase over last year's retailer attendance, according to Jim Whitman, senior vice president of National Association of Chain Drug Stores' member program services.

Marketplace, a show dedicated to exhibiting items sold in the front-end of supermarkets, mass stores and drugstores, seems to be faring well after a yearlong push to up its profile.

Michele Sherbet of Tampa, Fla.-based Nature's Therapy, said she has attended Marketplace for the past three years, and that this year the show appears to be meeting her sales needs better. At Marketplace, she said, she can pitch her company's array of products, which fall under different categories. At other trade shows, she said, she is limited to selling items to one particular category.

Specifically, Meet the Market — 15-minute retailer-supplier meetings — allows her to "get a foot in the door with X number of retailers and to make the second appointment." Sherbet added that NACDS' Web site shares retailers' schedules, allowing her to request specific times to meet with them.

"I can't see who they are meeting with, but I can see what times they have open," Sherbet said. "Normally, there's a lot of downtime, but this tool helps out. I think they are on an up cycle," she said of NACDS. This year she said she will "seriously look at whether we attend other shows."

Bob Wallner, vice president of sales of Los Angeles-based Milani, is optimistic about the 15 percent increase in retailer attendance and speculates that the growth is coming from retailers in Europe and Asia eager to tap into the U.S. beauty market. "[NACDS] started to market the show as an international show," Wallner explained. "They would probably suggest that it's about globalization. The retailer universe is diminishing so they have to expand around the world."

Overall, "I would definitely say they are on an upswing this year," Wallner said.

Perhaps the collective cheer for Marketplace is in response to remarks made by the association's chairman, David Bernauer, in Scottsdale, Ariz., in April during a speech at NACDS Annual."I'll be the first to admit that front-end has been a stepchild for NACDS in recent years, while our efforts have been focused on pharmacy fires. That's going to change. It has to. It's dollars and cents," said Bernauer, who is also the chairman of Walgreen Co. "While two-thirds of the sales volume for chain drugstores comes from prescriptions, a disproportionate share of the profits comes from front-end. We'd be dead ducks without healthy sales of [over-the-counters], cosmetics, photos, greeting cards and all that stuff we cram into our stores. And, for our mass and food members — front-end is a far greater portion of sales, let alone profits."

Whitman of NACDS said several preshow seminars have been designed to appeal to an executive, not necessarily a chain drug executive. One session in particular, "Take Back Your Life," should attract a high attendee count since it teaches how to better manage e-mail and voice mail.

Marketplace's second annual Town Hall Meeting, which will gather Sunday at 10 a.m. at the convention center, will discuss top-of-mind issues with NACDS' chief executive officer, Steve Anderson, as well as with Bernauer.

Whitman said NACDS employees Amanda Georgi, John Davis, Larry Lotridge, Roy McGrath and Sally Cranney have been instrumental in pushing Marketplace's profile to where it needs to be.

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